Life Science Curriculum 8-12

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Submitted by: Kindel Church

Position: N/A

Institution: Azusa Pacific University

Title of Experiment: How to Make a Magnet

Materials Needed:

One nine-volt battery
2 wires about 30 inches (75cm) and 10 inches (25cm) long
A switch circuit
Paper clips
2 paper fasteners

Scientific Background of Experiment:

Each time you turn on a light, listen to your stereo, fly an airplane, watch TV, or many other things you do each day, you are depending on the principles of magnetism to work for you. Magnets hold amazing properties and in this lab we will discover the magnetic mystery scientist have studied for centuries. Similarities, which scientists observed between electricity and magnetism led them to suggest that magnetic properties are possibly the result of forces between electric charges in motion. A man named James Clerk Maxwell was responsible for making this connection. The type of metal has a large impact on how well it will be magnetized. Soft materials become demagnetized spontaneously when removed from a magnetic field. Hard materials can retain their magnetism, making them useful in the production of permanent magnets. Magnetism is an invisible force, as is gravity and various other forces that hold major roles in the functioning of our universe. This project is designed teach students about the basic effects of magnetism, while showing its relationship with electricity. This experiment will show that as electricity flows through the coils of wire it produces what is called a magnetic force. This magnetic force turns the nail into a magnet. When the wire is wrapped around a piece of iron it not only turns that metal into a magnet but by doing so, the iron acts to strengthen the already present force of the wire.


1. The first step in performing this experiment is to make a switch circuit. Cutting a piece of cardboard three inches long and three inches wide can do this. Then two identical holes must be made. The holes should be big enough for the paper fasteners to fit through, and should be placed on opposite sides of the cardboard. Do not punch the holes in the corners; they should be in the middle of each opposing side. Then push the two paper fasteners through the holes in the cardboard, placing a paper clip under one of them.

2. Connect one end of your short wire to the positive end of the terminal of the nine-volt battery and then connect the other end to your switch. You connect it to the switch by attaching it to the paper fasteners on one end of the cardboard.

3. Next wind the long wire tightly around the nail (you may need to tape it in position). Leave a short length at one end and a longer length at the other. Of when you look at it the nail should be close to one end of the wire so that _ of the wire strand should remain unbound at one end and about 2/4 should remain unbound at the other end.

4. Connect the longer end of the wire to the negative terminal of the battery.

5. Connect the shorter end of the wire to the switch (paper fastener that does not already have a wire attached to it).

6. Now it is time to test what happens. Switch on the current and hold the nail over a pile of paper clips. What happens? How many paper clips are attached to the end of the nail? Switch off the current, what happens now?

Misc. Helpful Information/ Hints/ Suggestions:

To gain a further knowledge of magnetism the experiment can also be repeated but winding fewer coils around the nail. Observe to see if the nail can now pick up a larger or smaller number of paper clips. Another suggestion is the use of a steel nail instead of an iron one. You should find that the magnetism will remain in steel even after the current is switched off. These two variations might better help your class understand more about the effects and relationship between magnetism and electricity.